Monday, May 30, 2011

Drinks - Horchata

Recently, while browsing in a nearby bookshop, I came across an interesting cookbook titled "Street Food Chicago" by Chef Mike Baruch. I added it to my list of interesting looking books, and promptly came home to try and request it from the library. Luckily, they had it! And there was no wait for it!! So, two days later, I decided to sit down and page through it.

Now, I have been a Chicago person since I was a child. My grandparents and most of my dad's side lived in Chicago, so we would visit several times a year. I've always been interested in the city (well aside from the whole driving in Chicago thing..THAT sucks.) so that is probably what drew me to this cookbook to begin with.

I guess I was expecting a cookbook filled only with recipes for variations on Chicago-Style hot dogs, or perhaps Italian beef recipes to recreate the experience of dining at Superdawg or Roma's in your own home. Boy, was I wrong! Well, I guess half wrong, as you can find recipes for both of these things in the book, but it is so much more than stereotypical Chicago food!

The book contains an excellent smorgasbord of recipes from the many different cultures found within Chicago, including Mexican, Indian, Asian, Italian, African, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean. It also covers common sandwiches, hot dogs, and the like. This is a VERY comprehensive cookbook that would be a great addition to any kitchen.

While I have numerous recipes bookmarked to try in this book, I decided to start with a favorite of Matt's (which has also become a favorite of mine). When we eat at Mexican restaurants near our house, Matt likes to order a delicious tasting drink called Horchata. Horchata is a delicious drink that tastes of almond and cinnamon, with almost a milky consistency. The flavor kind of puts me in mind of iced chai. It also contains rice, a bit of sugar, and water. Pretty basic but really delicious!

I've wanted to try making it at home since we tried a rum based liqueur called Rumchata (some of the best stuff on earth, you should give it a try!). It so happened that the Chicago Street Food book contained a recipe for horchata!! A match made in heaven.

Making the horchata wasn't too bad of a process, although you do need to let the ingredients sit overnight, blend them together, and then strain. If you've got time this summer and would like a delicious and refreshing drink to go with your Mexican dinner, give this one a shot!!

*Please note that this recipe makes 1 quart. The recipe sounded like quite a process, so I doubled it to avoid being disappointed that we didn't have more!

Horchata

Ingredients:
-1 cup raw rice
-1/2 cup slivered almonds
-2 small Mexican cinnamon sticks
-1 quart warm water (aka 4 cups)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (since we doubled the recipe, I did 1/2 teaspoon of each)

Put rice in a strainer (fine mesh) and rinse for 1 minute under cold water. In large mixing bowl, combine rice, almonds, cinnamon, and warm water. Cover and let soak in refrigerator overnight.

The next day, ladle out 2 cups of the liquid and set aside. Carefully pour everything else in the large mixing bowl into a blender and puree until smooth (there will be little bits of rice/almonds/etc... this is normal).

Pour puree back into the large bowl, then add the 2 cups reserved liquid, sugar, and extract. Whisk until well blended.

Strain ingredients through fine mesh strainer (we used our regular strainer with some cheesecloth lining it), then pour into a pitcher and refrigerate overnight.
Serve chilled over ice.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dinner - "Light" Chicken Fajitas

I found this recipe for chicken fajitas in the Jan./Feb. 2011 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Two of these fajitas apparently net a value of just under 400 calories, which is pretty incredible based on how delicious they were. Of course, we added some cheese and a little sour cream to ours, which pushed the calories up a bit.

The nice flavor on these fajitas comes from marinating the main ingredients in dark Mexican beer, coupled with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. We didn't realize that the ingredients needed to marinate an hour, and we were in a hurry to eat, so we probably only marinated them for about 40 minutes. The flavor was still delicious, but next time we make these we will leave them sit at least an hour!

As for the beer selection on these, they recommend a dark Mexican beer, and we used the magazine's particular suggestion of Negra Modelo, which had a nice chocolate/stouty flavor.

Cooking Light's Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients:
-3/4 cup dark Mexican beer
-2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce (we used 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce and 1 tablespoon water)
-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
-1 tablespoon canola oil (or vegetable oil)
-1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
-3 garlic cloves, crushed
-1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut across the grain into 1/2 inch thick strips
-1 cup sliced onion
-1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced (we subbed 2 red bell peppers for the other peppers since they were the cheapest!)
-1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-8 (6 inch) flour tortillas

Combine first 6 ingredients. Place chicken in a zip top bag and add 3/4 cup of the beer mixture. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.
Place remaining beer mixture in a second zip top bag, and add onion and bell peppers, sealing and marinating 1 hour at room temperature.

Heat a skillet over med-high heat and coat pan with cooking spray. Remove chicken from bag, discarding marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, add to pan, and cook for 2 minutes on each side (or until done). Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Remove onion and peppers from bag and discard marinade. Add mixture to pan and cook 6 minutes or until tender, turning after 3 minutes. Combine chicken with onion and pepper mixture and cook an additional minute.

Meanwhile, toast tortillas in pan, if desired, and keep warm.

Ready plates for serving by placing 2 tortillas on each plate. Divide chicken mixture evenly between tortillas. Garnish with jalapeno slices, salsa, light sour cream, salsa, cilantro and cheese if desired.
Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Snacks - Road Food (Vol. 1)

We headed out on a family road trip this past weekend to Kansas City, MO to see a friend get married (hello and congrats to Briana and Weston!). I really wanted to make an assortment of treats and munchies for the drive, so I set to work looking for recipes for appropriate snacks that fit my road trip food ideals.

When I go on a road trip, I try to cover all the bases for snacks. Generally, that encompasses the following: something sweet, something salty/cheesy, something chewy, and something crunchy. Reading that previous sentence, it probably sounds like I am planning for the food wedding or something, but to be genuinely prepared for anything the road might throw at you, a nice diverse snack lineup is necessary.

The snacks that made the cut for this trip needed to also have the ability to not melt being in a hot car, so I tried to choose accordingly.

For something sweet I decided to go with the classic chocolate chip cookie; the salty/cheesy aspect was covered by some delicious baked cheddar crackers; the chewiness from an "old timey" recipe for applesauce spice cookies; and the crunch from a childhood fave of both me and Matt, puppy chow.

My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is from the back of the pack of Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Specifically, the milk chocolate variety! You can find the recipe at this link, but to make them to the Kiefer Kitchen specs, be sure to use milk chocolate Ghirardelli chips and to omit any nuts called for in the recipe. These cookies are perfect for any sort of cookie or chocolate craving, and they are really dangerous to have around, especially if you are anything like me when it comes to cookies.



For the baked cheddar crackers, I turned to a recipe I had been drooling over since I saw it on my friend Heather's blog Pretty Peas. Her recipe for Triple-Cheddar Crackers is super delicious, and as she says, soooo easy. The recipe calls for a food processor, something that I do not own, so I just decided to blend it all up in my Kitchenaid until the dough looked good. Problem #2, I apparently don't have onion powder in my arsenal of spices, so I subbed in garlic powder.

These turned out to be the surprise hit of the snacks, everyone loved them and I know we will definitely be making them again soon. They have a bit of crispiness to them but are a bit soft too, kind of like a cheesy cookie, and no that is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all! It's a little like a very thin, cheesy biscuit. I hope you can try these out soon!!

Since I am such an avid fan of cookies, I decided to try a new recipe from a book we got on a trip to West Virginia several years ago. Now, this book may sound entirely normal, but it is titled "Old Timey Recipes" and is filled with southern-style, handwritten recipes. I will say, any cookbook containing recipes for pork cake, parsnip wine, and moonshine is okay in my book.

Anyways, the recipe is for applesauce spice cookies and is really delicious.

I highly recommend this book if you're ever in the West Virginia area, the link above is to a place you can get this book which happens to be a place we stopped while visiting (ironically not the place I bought the cookbook!) called Tamarack. Tamarack is a big shopping place full of handcrafted goods and eats from West Virginia. A great place!

These cookies turned out nice and soft, almost cakey. Here's the variation I used:

Applesauce Spice Cookies

Ingredients:
-1-3/4 cups flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 cup sugar
-1 cup applesauce
-1 cup dried cranberries
-1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/2 cup shortening
-1 egg
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 cup rolled oats (I used instant)

Mix flour, salt, spices. Cream sugar with shortening. Add beaten egg. Add mixed dry ingredients alternately with applesauce to creamed mixture. Mix well. Stir in cranberries and oats. Drop by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 10-15 minutes. Makes 5-6 dozen.

The last recipe was a classic that nearly everyone that likes to bake has probably made. It's a great simple alternative to other cereal snacks, such as rice krispie treats or (my fave) s'mores bars. Puppy chow is a great, and quite addicting, mixture of rice/corn cereal (Crispix type), peanut butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar. Apparently the name we all know this treat by must have had a bad image or something, as it seems the name has been changed to "Sweet Minglers" on the Kellogg's website. The recipe can be found here, and is really quite simple and quick to make.

Phew! Well, hope you enjoyed the overview of some good road snacks from our travels!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dinner - Chicken Enchiladas

Tonight's meal comes to you from an excellent cookbook we got for Christmas this past year from some friends who attend St. Alphonsus Church here in the Milwaukee area. (Shoutout to Pat and Mark!!)

This cookbook is, like every good church or organization cookbook, full of great recipes from old and young alike; classics intermingled with favorites waiting to be discovered. The beauty of this one is that it is nearly 400 pages long, and may possibly be the only cookbook to contain a recipe for "Elephant Stew" (For the curious, here's how it starts off: Cut 1 elephant into bite size pieces, this will take about 2 months...).

Since we unfortunately were fresh out of elephant, we decided to try a recipe for Chicken Enchiladas. (Fattening, awfully bad for you meal alert!! Okay, well maybe not if you eat it in moderation. But really, this one cannot be good for you.)

The enchiladas are filled with a cream cheese, chicken, and salsa mixture enhanced by several common household spices. It is a good meal in terms of using things that would normally be on hand. It has a little prep, such as cooking/shredding up the chicken, chopping some onion, and preheating the corn tortillas.

The flavor of this dish is delicious, and I will warn you, it is a heavy dish-very creamy and rich. It is similar to eating at a Mexican restaurant in that regard. I went all out and did refried beans and rice with this, and we kinda had way too much food. The good thing? We will be able to eat this probably 2 more times each, as it made a good 13-14 enchiladas (I went a little heavy handed on the stuffing). This is definitely a good meal to make to cure wanting to go out for Mexican food!

Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:
-1 cup chopped onion
-2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 teaspoon chili powder (I subbed Penzey's Arizona Dreaming)
-1 teaspoon garlic powder
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese
-6 cups shredded, cooked chicken (I used 2 chicken breasts, but I can see that canned chicken working well for this)
-3/4 bottle salsa (we used a 16 oz jar for this)
-2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
-1/4 cup chopped black olives (I hate olives. We didn't add them)
-16 corn tortillas (we only could fit 13-14 in our baking pan
-2 (14 oz) cans enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 350.
Prepare a 9x13 baking pan (we actually use one a little larger than this, our big lasagna pan).

For filling:
Cook onion in oil in a large saucepan until translucent.
Stir in chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin. Add cream cheese and cook over low, breaking cheese up with a wooden spoon until melted. Add chicken and salsa. Heat 2-3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, then add 1-1/4 cups of the cheese and the olives.

For the tortillas:
Wrap tortillas in stacks of 8 in foil wrappers. Heat in oven 8-10 minutes until warm and pliable.

Put it all together:
Spread 1/2 cup enchilada sauce over bottom of baking pan. Spoon 1/4 cup chicken mixture into each tortilla, rolling each and placing seam-side down in baking dish.
Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake 15-20 minutes until hot and bubbly.
You apparently can also make this ahead of time, then refrigerate until ready to cook. If you do that, you'll need to cook it 30-35 minutes.

Enjoy!

Dessert - Quick and Easy Sorbet

Thanks to that great Taste of Hawaii book I have mentioned in a couple recent blogs, I now have a great sorbet recipe! In the book (and as we made it at home), the flavor is guava, provided by guava juice.

I've been quite inspired by this recipe and believe it would translate well to any sort of fruit juice you see fit to make into sorbet! Simple and delicious!

We made the base syrup, then combined it with a bit of water, then froze the mixture using our Kitchenaid Mixer Ice Cream Maker Attachment. To be honest, if you have a Kitchenaid, you should really invest in one of these attachments. We have made some delicious frozen treats with it, including Bailey's ice cream, peanut butter ice cream, and this nice, light sorbet. While we don't use it every day, or even every month for that matter, it really churns out some good stuff. I think we will use it a lot this summer, hopefully to concoct some off-the-wall flavors.

At any rate, I hope you find the recipe to be enjoyable! As an alternative to an ice cream maker, you can probably freeze the base syrup in a basic loaf pan, or even an ice cube tray for individual servings. I also have visions of using this sorbet as an alternative to ice cubes in cocktails, quite possibly influenced by the scoops of sherbet that float in this punch my grandma makes (it is delicious!).

Also, please excuse the awful photo I took of the sorbet...it's hard to photograph!!

Basic Fruit Sorbet

Ingredients:
-1 cup sugar
-1-1/2 cups water
-1 cup your choice of juice (we used guava)

In coated saucepan (non-reactive), combine sugar with half of the water and bring to boil.
Let cool, then mix juice with the rest of the water and add to sugar syrup.
Pour into ice cream maker (and follow freezing directions), or into loaf pan/ice cube trays.
When frozen, scoop out and enjoy!

Dinner - Good Earth Tuscan Chicken with Penne Pasta

We tried this meal a week or so ago, and I am just now getting to write a bit about it! On our last visit to the grocery store, we saw a new addition to the boxed dinners in the natural section. I'll be honest, we really just wanted to get our fave lazy dinner, Annie's mac 'n cheese, but we thought it would be nice to try something more.

The Good Earth boxed entree Tuscan Chicken with Penne Pasta ended up in our cart. Granted, it's not a super healthy meal but like the box says, it does make an excellent restaurant substitute. Basically, this meal is kind of the gourmet version of a boxed meal, all you add is the chicken!

The meal was nice and easy to cook, tasted alright (a little salty for our taste, but not too bad overall), and preparation clocked in at under an hour. This would have been great paired with some garlic bread, perhaps some green beans or asparagus, and a nice bottle of wine.

The website above for Good Earth also is offering a $1 off coupon right now, if you're looking for something new and quick, or a good alternative to your favorite boxed meal, this one would be it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lunch/Side Dish - California Roll Salad

I found out about this great recipe at hula class a few weeks ago. Our teacher's sister made a delicious salad that tasted exactly like a California roll. After one taste, I thought to myself "Matt NEEDS to try this"!

There are many recipes for this salad, and by simply searching "California roll salad" you can come up with dozens. Like other popular recipes, there are tons of variations, and I chose the one closest to what I had tasted. The only difference (I think?) is that this recipe includes a dressing for the rice salad. I half think I chose this recipe simply because of the dressing, which uses wasabi powder (I recently purchased wasabi powder from Penzey's).

The recipe does involve quite a bit of prep work, including chopping cucumbers, grating carrots, chopping crab meat (which can be omitted for vegetarians), and so on. Once you get the rice made and everything sliced and diced, the recipe is really simple - just throw it all together and mix!! I could even see this recipe being used again for different types of sushi flavor (eel avocado roll anyone??!).

It would also be a nice different side dish to take to a picnic or outdoor event. The salad is adventurous enough, but imitation crab meat is not as scary to most people as raw fish. It's quite light and delicious, as a regular sushi roll would be, and adding the dressing creates the effect of dipping a sushi piece in soy sauce mixed with wasabi.

You may find the recipe I used at the Epicurious website here. I hope you try this recipe!! It is really good and would be great this summer when you start to move meals outside. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Drinks - Mint Julep (DERBY DAY!!)

Just a quick post for your Derby Day enjoyment! Matt and I have just made some delicious (and stroooong) mint juleps. Now, it is only 3, but c'mon, this is the one, perfect day each year where having a mint julep at 3 in the afternoon is perfectly acceptable.

We made our juleps with Four Roses bourbon, from one of the distilleries we visited on our Bourbon Trail tour last year. Let me give you a little background on juleps, solely based on knowledge gained in my reading of The Joy of Mixology, the excellent tome by Gary Regan. If you have any interest in cocktails, this book is a great one, combining recipes, historical information, and advice from the author.

The julep family of drinks all use an "aromatic garnish" to top the drink, in this case it is mint. Traditionally, the mint julep is served in a beautiful, elaborate silver cup. Unfortunately, when we visited Churchill Downs and I attempted to procure one of these excellently gorgeous chalices, they cost $60 for a cheap pewter repro, and upwards of $200 for the real deal silver cup!! I guess that will go on my life goals list...for when I make way more money.

The julep cup is useful in that it allows the drinker to get a good "whiff" of the garnish while they drink the drink.

Cutting back to the derby for a sec, the television just informed me that 2,250 pounds of mint go into over 120,000 mint juleps at the derby (guessing these figures are from last year?). That is a LOT of mint juleps.

Some of the interesting competitors this year, include (in the Kentucky Oaks race) Bobby Flay's horse, Her Smile , and (in the derby) the horse named Pants On Fire who is ridden by a female jockey. (Speaking of Bobby Flay, he provided a great sounding julep recipe a couple derbies ago for a Blackberry-Bourbon Julep.)

Alright, well I will let you get back to watching the derby! Here is the recipe we used to create our mint juleps at home:

Mint Julep

Ingredients:
-2-1/2 oz Bourbon
-2 teaspoons water
-1 teaspoon powdered sugar
-4 sprigs fresh mint

Combine mint, powdered sugar, and water in a glass and muddle (we used our Four Roses tasting glasses, which are probably about 8 oz).
Fill glass with ice (preferably shaved or crushed, although we had neither so ice cubes had to do).
Add Bourbon, top with additional ice.
Garnish with another mint sprig and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Side Dish - Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic and Five-Spice Powder

Tonight's main dish of Kalua Pig came courtesy of my shopping at Ono Kine Grindz the other week. I really wanted to pair the pig with a nice side that had a bit of Pacific influence. While flipping through my Taste Of Hawaii cookbook, I found a recipe that sounded simple, yet delicious!

Well, actually the recipe wasn't all that simple, as you had to peel potatoes, steam them up, roast garlic, heat cream just until boiling, then mash everything together with spices and serve!

As you may know from previous blog entries, I am famous for starting recipes without reading them the entire way through! That is precisely what happened here, as I somehow interpreted this recipe to be way less time consuming than it actually was. Don't get the wrong idea though, I am really enjoying this cookbook, and think you readers would too!! (Actually have another recipe from it sitting in my freezer right now.)

Lucky for you, I will give you the "Cliff Notes" version, and offer a less time consuming alternative to the full blown, home-made mashed potatoes.

Unabridged:

Roast 3 garlic cloves in olive oil in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool a bit, then chop super fine.
Prepare the potatoes by steaming in a vegetable steamer (over boiling hot water) for 20 minutes. Heat 1/2 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan until just boiling, then remove from heat.
Mash potatoes, adding the heavy cream, roasted garlic, then several pinches of five spice powder, finishing up with salt and pepper (to taste) and chunks of butter melted in (about half a stick).
Make sure they are mixed well, to mashed potato consistency!


Cliff Notes:

Buy instant mashed potato mix.
Roast garlic in the oven for 20 minutes.
Prepare potatoes as directed for 6 servings (or thereabouts).
Stir in a little butter, then add roasted garlic, several pinches of five spice powder, salt and pepper to taste. Easy!

The moral of the story is probably that the home-made will likely taste a bit better than the instant potatoes, but if you are looking for a way to spice up a ho-hum side dish, what better way to do it than by adding the basic flavor ingredients from this recipe?! The potatoes went really well with the kalua pork, a nice subtle flavor due to the five spice powder. Nice!

If you are interested in this recipe, I also found lots of other delicious ones by doing a google search for mashed potatoes with five spice. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Breakfast - Mango Bread


Last year, about this time, I decided to purchase several cookbooks about both authentic Hawaiian cooking and Polynesian-pop (vintage, nontraditional recipes) cooking. My hula teacher, Malia, let me borrow a wonderful book filled with recipes of a family friend of hers, and I have been inspired to pull through my old books again to start making some of these recipes.

It is quite difficult to figure out where to start when wading through these books! I decided to check them out one at a time to try and make the recipes that sound most interesting and tasty.

The first cookbook I chose for my new project is "A Taste of Hawaii" by Jean-Marie Josselin. A little background on the author: he was born in France, received his culinary education in Paris, and worked in the US before heading to Hawaii and opening restaurants both in Hawaii and Las Vegas. So I guess you would call his style Pacific Rim fusion?? His cooking seems largely influenced by Hawaiian ingredients and several recipes include methods of cooking (i.e. steaming, tabletop grilling) that are used frequently around the Pacific Rim.

Many recipes in this book sound simply delicious, and I am eager to try them. To make you drool, here are some included recipes: Guava Sorbet (I will make this soon), Huli-Huli Roasted Chicken with Lime-Honey Glaze (roasted on a spit!), Mashed Potatoes with Five-Spice Powder, Mai-Tai Sauce, Imu-Baked Onaga (Hawaiian Snapper) with Hawaiian Salt (We will have to make this when we get a house...we hope to put an Imu or underground oven in our backyard! Hopefully!). Mmmm. Delicious.

I chose to make something on the "easier" side first, a quick bread containing mango and macadamia nuts. The recipe was pretty easy, but there is a fair amount of prep that goes in to cutting the mango and chopping up the macadamias.

We had a little "banana bread" issue with this loaf, and I was afraid it would end up undercooked... however we left it in the oven a good while longer than the recipe called for, and it came out beautiful! The crust got a little dark, but it is not burnt so that was a good thing.

Mango Bread

Ingredients:
-2 cups flour
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1-1/2 cups sugar
-4 eggs
-1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
-1/4 cup walnuts, broken in pieces
-3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup applesauce)
-2 cups ripe mango, cut in small cubes (I took the lazy way and used frozen mango, defrosted and diced smaller)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
Make a well in the center of mixture, then add sugar, eggs, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and oil/applesauce.
Stir well.
Add mango, stirring in gradually.
Pour batter into a loaf pan and bake for at least an hour, checking the loaf until it is done (when a knife inserted in the center of loaf comes out clean).

We probably ended up baking our loaf for about an hour and 15-20 minutes. It took a LONG time, but eventually came out okay. I was a bit worried. It is a good way to bring a little summer to your house! Enjoy!